Brick Smoker - Brewyah Style

Discussion in 'Smoker Builds' started by brewyah, Sep 5, 2013.

  1. So, I've been smoking meat for over a year now (not long, I know) on a 16" diameter Meco vertical charcoal water smoker.  It made decent meat...some great ribs, chicken, salmon...you know the drill.  However, there were a couple of things that bothered me about it.


     First, the stupid thing was very sensitive to the weather, due to its thin metal body.  Cold weather (welcome to Canada!), rain, even just a little wind would cool it down far more than I wanted.  I build a wooden box to go around it to help insulate a bit and prevent the elements from getting at it, but that was just a minor fix.

    Second, I butcher a 200lb pig every year and make my own sausage and bacon, along with all the other fun things we get from pigs.  I would smoke them, but it would take multiple runs to get everything done.  A solution had to be found.


    Here are a few shots of some of my original plans.  It would be a dual layer brick smoker, with fire brick on the inside and red brick on the outside.



    I have to give a shout out to Wes W, whose smoker was a good part of the inspiration for this build.  Prior to this, I knew nothing about masonry - give me some plywood and 2x4s, and I'm set...but this was a different animal altogether.  At any rate, this is what I did to change my smoking life.


    I knew I needed a decent base for this, so I planned to pour a concrete pad 46"x42".  I wanted the pad to be just barely bigger than the smoker, to reduce the footprint in my suburban yard.  With my father-in-law's guidance, we dug a hole and began prepping the rebar that would add strength to the concrete.





    At each of the four corners, we dug support holes three feet deep, where we would create concrete pillars reinforced with rebar sticking down.  My father-in-law was a one-man concrete business for decades, so I trusted him to know what to do as far as building a base that would hold the weight and last with our type of soil and climate.





    We poured in a bunch of gravel before adding concrete.


    I created a disaster of the back part of my yard.  Needless to say, my wife was nervous.  However, the pad was poured, and I just had to wait a month for proper curing before I would be comfortable cranking through the rest of it!


    In the meantime, I scoured local online classified sites, tracking down all the free brick I could.  I had well over 500 brick for the outside perimeter, but had to buy the fire brick new.  I set up a trial layout in my garage, trying to figure out the exact spacing.  (Ha!)


    After amassing a ton of used brick, I decided that it looked like crap.  Balls.  I managed to get rid of it using the same site where I acquired it.  Then, I was off to the place where I got the fire brick.  I found some brick on clearance that would be perfect for the job!


    Sadly, these three pallets of brick and mortar sat in my garage for a few months, until I had the time to proceed with the project.  So much for my full summer of smoking sweet meat!

    The build was next...
     
  2. Looks like your off to a good start. Keep the pics coming.

    Happy smoken.

    David
     
  3. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Looking good Jeremy....... I'm in for the build..... :popcorn .... Dave
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2013
  4. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Looks like a great plan! I'll be sticking around to watch. My second smoker was a Meco. Smoked my first thanksgiving turkey in it. It was 20* outside. I had to build a box out of rigid foam to help get the temps up to work! Shortly after that I bought my GOSM!
     
  5. Nice!  [​IMG]   I'll be watching with great interest as I've been toying with the idea of a brick smoker or pizza oven  [​IMG]   Have you decided how you're gonna do your doors yet?
     
  6. will be an interesting build...shoulda kept that intial brick you got, brick always comes in handy for something... lol.
     
  7. So, the first build day came...I loaded brick to the back, poured myself a most excellent German Pilsner homebrew from the bar, and worked up the courage to begin.



    The first brick getting a little mortar lovin'.


    My buddy Brad came over to help.  He'd helped out his father with a few brick jobs when he was younger, so he had the confidence to kick me in the rear to get going that morning...and to do it right, stringing out line and all that fun stuff.


    As the door frame was going to be constructed out of 3" angle iron, I needed to build up a base that would be higher than 3", hence this initial base layer of brick.  It also helps bring up my fire box just a bit, so I don't have to lie on the ground to see what's going on!


    On top of the first layer went my first layer of fire brick, surrounded by a layer of perimeter red brick.  I stepped in the second layer of red brick about a half inch on the sides and back, as the initial layer, all laid out in one direction, was a bit wider than the second layer would be.


    I used Spec Mix masonry mortar for the red brick and Super Demon refractory mortar for the fire brick.  I found it hard to get a nice 'grout' line with just the recommended 'buttering' of mortar between the fire bricks.  There were gaps all along the top between them, so I wound up 'fingering' in mortar between them, then sponging it off to get a smoother surface.  One thing I found with the Super Demon was how quickly it would harden; little splots of it would create sharp edges that easily cut up my hands, if I wasn't wearing gloves and not paying attention.

    At this point, I hit a bit of a standstill.  I wanted to wait at least a week for the base mortar to cure a bit before I put the door frame on.  As you'll see from the pictures below, I did the three doors for the smoker in one large frame - it measures 76" from top to bottom.  Also, I had to really work the measurements carefully.  I was going to have a welder fabricate the frame and the air intake vents, and I didn't want to screw this up.  It took some courage - and many beers - for me to get him the information.


    Before I installed the frame, I laid it out to paint the inside edges, as it would be difficult to do that once installed.  The frame is made out of 3/16" thick 3" angle iron, and the doors/vents are made from 1/4" plate steel.  I painted everything with six coats of high temperature barbecue spray paint.


    I sized the air intake vents to 4.5x9", to match a fire brick standing on its side, as I planned to just have it replace a fire brick on the inside wall.


    Here's my buddy Brad chillin' like a villain after we set up the frame.  As I planned to use the frame as the basis for laying out the first bricks for each course, I needed it in place and secure before starting.  I supported it with a crazy looking frame of 2x4s pounded into the ground.  It wasn't going anywhere.


    Here are the vents, which were made long enough to go through both layers of the smoker.


    This is where we got by the end of the first day.  I should now mention that I had this crazy idea that I would be able to finish the brick in one day.  Did I mention that this was my first attempt at masonry???


    So, the third day of brick work came...you can see the slow progress...


    It's hard to see in the above shot, but I also placed a couple of the stainless steel weave screens in place, as they are the grates for the smoker.


    I had read that rain can be bad for the refractory mortar, so I had to tarp off the smoker at the end of the day.  Progress was definitely being made, albeit it slowly.  I managed to keep things relatively straight - not perfect, for sure, but good enough for me to be happy with the situation.  Anything out of whack is giving it character...or so I tell myself!  At least the level was good.
     
  8. Thanks!  Actually, I'm done now.  Just trying to get everything posted!
     
  9. I'll have to take a picture of the wooden contraption I built for the Meco before I sell it off!
     
  10. Yeah, it was all sorted out before I started to build.  I'll keep posting!  Just at work and don't want to have to leave the computer for a while and potentially time out or anything...hence the multiple posts.
     
  11. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Building contraptions is the fun part of smoking, right?

    That's some good progress you have there! Few more beers and you ought to have her done! [​IMG]

    I bought my Meco on E-bay for $30.00 and sold it on E-bay for $65. Two crazy guys got into a bidding war for the darn thing! [​IMG]
     

  12. Like I said, many beers were brewed and consumed in order to accomplish this.


    When I first got the measurements for the stainless grates, I thought they might have to be installed as the brick went up, as you see here.  However, there is enough flex to them and enough gap around that I can pull them out as needed - very handy, especially when I want to through in rebar to smoke rings of sausage!


    I had to throw the doors on early to get a picture of this...and to set my mind at ease that everything would one day be okay!


    Fortunately, my measurements worked out, and I managed to get this course of brick pretty darn even with the top of the inside part of the door frame.  I would then be able to run brick across the top of the frame as support for the roof.  Booyah!


    I forgot to take a picture of the roof before I installed it and covered it with brick.  Boo!  I did, however, include the above picture, which was taken from below the roof, aiming up at the outside world.  At any rate, it was a sheet of 1/4" plate steel whose dimensions covered the entire roof, with only a 1.5" perimeter of brick going around.  That would give it maximum support from the brick while allowing a decent margin for mortar to hide the fact that there is a steel roof!  I gave this metal several coats of paint, as well, in order to help protect it from rust or whatever might come upon it.  One other thing about the roof: I had my welder cut a 8" hole in the center and weld the stainless, insulated chimney to it.


    In the above picture, you get an idea of what I did with the roof.  This is right before I added the next course of brick on top of the roof.  If you look closely, you can see where there the steel ends before the outer edge of the red brick.


    I picked up some Tru Temp barbecue thermometers for the doors.  As luck would have it, I was able to place both thermometers right in the centers of each door without having to worry about it interfering with any of the grates.  Unfortunately, I had to find a way to cut the 7/8" holes for them!


    At this point, I taped around the door frame, so I could paint the outside edges many, many times.


    Here she is without the tape...starting to come together!  I also have the grates installed (still a little bend left in them - they were part of a large, stainless roll) and the charcoal grates below.  I hate to admit the slight lean into the doorway that happened with the fire brick on the right side, but it happened.  I'll blame the fact that the fire brick weren't perfectly rectangular.  Stupid, considering they were so expensive!


    I had to take my smoker doors to a fabricator to have them cut the holes through the plate steel...there's a cool action shot.


    I painted the doors when they were back on the smoker.  It seemed like the easiest way to paint all the way around the fronts and edges...it just took a little taping and tarping to prevent the whole smoker from getting painted.


    And...cheers to that.


    And...the finished product!  Just a little more wire brushing and taking off that last label on the chimney.  I just realized I didn't get a picture of the top of the smoker to show the brick work on top.  I'll get that up tomorrow, hopefully!
     
  13. webowabo

    webowabo Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Is it leaning to the right?? :biggrin: just kidding. .... thats a great job. When your ready for some more masonry work... ill be starting mine here in a few weeks.....
    cant wait to see her smokin some good stuff!
     
  14. Yeah...it comes in handy for pissing off my loving wife when it's taking up her parking space in the garage!  It wasn't bad in the spring or summer, but not cool when the snow flies and the vehicle windows get caked in hard frost.  Sigh.
     
  15. Hahaha!  I can only hope.  I'm going to list mine, along with the new Weber cover and the wood 'shack' for it.  We'll see how that goes.  I paid $20 for the smoker and $35 for the cover (imagine how hard it was to shell out for that, when it was almost twice the price!).
     
  16. Hahaha...hey, send me up a plane ticket, and I'm in.  Better than that, I'll take a slow tour down through the craft breweries on the way.  Better get a D.D.  I'm going to fire up the smoker tomorrow afternoon to cook up a couple of spatchcocked (giggle) chickens.  That's my test fire to get a basic handle on controlling the temps...because I'm having a huge birthday bbq here on Sunday.  Going to smoke up a 10lb brisket, an 8lb pork butt, and a 16lb turkey.  Oh, I'm going to smoke up 20lb of potatoes on the top rack, too.  I also have a cask Honey Brown ale that will sit up on my bar (very old school!), next to the four beers already on tap.  This will be a rustic feast for the record books, if all goes according to plan.  Nips are reaching maximum perkiness as we speak.
     
  17. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Nice build...... Didn't take very long.... drat.... Seems like I just popped the top and your build was finished..... FAST, VERY FAST
     
  18. webowabo

    webowabo Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Sounds like a nice spread for a bday party. .. friends. . Familia ..food...and booze.... thats what its all about ;)
     
  19. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    All right, now that you got the build out of the way, show us that TBS pumping out of there!
     
  20. Absolutely!  The only concern at this point is that the forecast is calling for 60% chance of rain.  Not that it will hinder the performance of the smoker, but it might make for a little less fun in the sun.  However, the meat and beer will make up for that.
     

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